A first for the redistricting commission – foreign language interpreters!
Today, for the first time, language interpreters were available to assist speakers and attendees who are not fluent in English. Translators were standing by to help Vietnamese, Korean, and Spanish speakers. Although no one requested Korean or Vietnamese language interpretation, several Spanish speakers had the assistance of interpreters. One Spanish interpreter was provided by the Virginia Civic Engagement Table (VCET). The Division of Legislative Services (DLS) staff and Commission sent notice of language assistance a few hours prior to the afternoon hearing. To sign up for Spanish interpretation, email .
Around 35 people signed up to speak at the Public Hearing which was focused on Northern Virginia. Twenty of the 35 spoke. Themes of keeping communities together was heard throughout the hearing.
Six people (Rosalia Fajardo, Lenka Mendoza, Vicky Leiva, Alejandra Ponciano, Elsa Delgado, and Karina Flores) spoke in support of Map # 147, which was submitted by the Multicultural Community Coalition. Map 147 was drawn for counties in Northern Virginia. The speakers have lived in Virginia for 11 to 22 years. They described their communities in Prince William County, Manassas, and Dale City. They spoke of their cultural ties to their communities, including shopping, schools, and churches. They expressed a desire for representation and look forward to having their voices heard for the next ten years.
Three people spoke on behalf of their community organizations. Mr. Paul Berry, chair of the Fairfax County Redistricting group, described the process that this group of 20 followed as they drew new county supervisor and school board districts. They elevated communities of interest and gave “no formal consideration to elected officials.” They “unanimously agreed that where they live is less important than the citizens they serve.” Monica Sarmiento , Executive Director of the Virginia Coalition for Immigrants Rights (CIR), a coalition of 43 groups, noted that Virginia has the 9th largest immigrant population in the U.S., and that ¾ of the immigrant communities are in Northern Virginia. She noted the map her coalition submitted and wanted to endorse the maps submitted by VCET and the New Virginia Majority. Edgar Aranda-Yanoc, executive director of the Virginia Coalition of Latino Organizations, wants to make his community stronger and supports alternate map 147.
Eleven people spoke as individuals about the draft maps. Recurring themes were respect for COIs (Communities of interest) and criticism of incumbent protection.
Mr. Ankit Jain said that the number of seats that a party holds must be proportional. If maps are compact but “give advantage to one party or another”, they are not fair. He noted that the A5 Senate map has been given a grade of “F” by the Princeton Gerrymandering Project; the House maps were graded “B” and “A”. He recommended using Senate map B4 and House map A7 as base maps, making some changes, and looking for the possibility of creating one more minority opportunity district.
Chris DeRosa (Arlington) expressed approval of both A5 and B4 maps of the Senate districts for Arlington, while rejecting a change in House map A7 which seemed to result in incumbent protection. She noted that neither A7 nor B6 reflected the COIs that had been mentioned by speakers in the previous week, notably the Columbia Pike and metro corridors.
Janet Martin (North Springfield) described her community as extending to and including Annandale, which has a large Korean community. She does not like House B6 map which splits Annandale and connects North Springfield to George Mason University 20 miles to the west. Martin wondered why the community of Holmes Run Acres was carved out. She described many conversations that “start with concerns about incumbent addresses”, which should be at the “bottom of your list – make it the last thing you look at.” Quoting Martin Luther King, Jr, she said it was “time to bend the arc of history toward justice.”
Mr. Lynn Pascoe, co-chair of the Mt. Vernon Council of Citizens Assn (MVCCA), said he was not satisfied with any of the maps, and that he will submit alternative maps. Sam Shirazi said it doesn’t make sense that Charlottesville is split 3 ways or that rural King George County is paired with Fredericksburg. He wondered if public comments are being heard and incorporated into fair maps.
Richard Zimmerman described Northern Virginia districts as “sausages” breaking up townships. “A delegate ought to be able to visit with his constituents in the first half of the football game and another group in the 2nd half.”
Callie Jordan, a student at University of Mary Washington, asked that her campus be kept together in one House district. Being split into two House districts (as it is now; Districts 28 and 88) and 3 municipal wards causes confusion. Students, staff, and the greater community of Fredericksburg share many interests in common.
Bill Millhouser (Fairfax County) supported earlier statements by Jain, Martin, and Berry. He prefers House map A7 and Senate map B4. He approves of Bailey’s Crossroads being included in the Columbia Pike corridor in Arlington. Made several other suggestions of modifying districts to better respect COIs.
Lois Maiden-McCray (Prince William County) said that churches and shopping were important to her. She expressed a preference for House map B6 and Senate map B4 but does not like House map A7. She asked the Commission to not dilute the vote and reminded them, quoting her mother, that “it’s nice to be nice”.
Ms. Ha Nguyen (Centreville) noted that Asians comprised 6.5% of Virginia’s total population in 2010, but in 2020 is 9% of the state population, an increase of 45%. She noted that the Asian community had a lot at stake in redistricting, and that they are deserving of “collective advocacy power”. She asked that Centreville be included in a district with Fairfax County where her family and neighbors shop and go to school (rather than Prince William County). Ms. Nguyen mentioned the maps created by VCET, a coalition which includes NAKASEC.
Hamilton Premen (Fauquier County) said this process is “a dream come true”, referring to VPAP’s rating of all maps as more compact than current maps. He is concerned that Fauquier County is split and asked for smoother boundaries, rather than the jagged borders that he sees on maps. He recommended using the Princeton Gerrymandering Project to evaluate maps for political fairness. “Incumbents should have even less weight”, he stated.
The next hearings are scheduled for Tuesday, October 5 at 10 am (Southside) and 4 pm (Hampton Roads) and will continue Wednesday and Thursday. All hearings are virtual and can be viewed on YouTube. You may sign up to speak no later than 12 noon the day before the hearing.
LWV-VA Observer Corps –
Peggy Layne – LWV-MC